Gin review, Uncategorized

Gin Tasting: Malawi Gin

Imagine you are sitting under a palm tree, skin too hot from a day in the sun, feet buried in warm sand and you are listening to a gentle fish eagle call from way back in a deep red and orange sunset over the water. That’s Malawi Gin – a soothing sunset, bottled.

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M.G.T. (Malawi Gin & Tonic), as it is fondly known, has become something of a cult amongst holidaymakers and travellers who have ventured over to the warm heart of Africa. You need only check the forum boards on TripAdvisor and Lonely Planet and you will find travellers desperately seeking a bottle once they returned to the UK. Well great news, travellers – Malawi Gin is finally available here in the UK (see end of post for where to buy)!

Established in 1965, Malawi Gin is a firm favourite not just with travellers, but with most gin lovers in Africa and it’s easy to see why – it’s a soft, gentle gin with a classic profile that has become all too forgotten lately with the prolific and wild botanicals that are awash through the gin industry right now. It’s polite and very easy to drink. Subtle notes pushing through a very silky gin indeed.

The packaging will have hipsters delighted – there’s a quaint 70s vibe I really like about it and it’s nice to see a gin that isn’t bamboozling with design and print finishes for a change. It’s true to its original look and hasn’t changed in 40 years or so.

This is indeed a dry gin, but it’s got some really lovely sweet and fruity notes that shine through.

Having grown up in Malawi, it would be fair to say that this gin has a special place in my heart and I am absolutely delighted it’s now available to buy here in the UK and I was very excited to share this delightful gin with our members.

THE TASTING

#1:      ON THE NOSE

Honey, juniper, citrus and fresh cut grass with a surprising undertone of coconut.

#2:      ON THE PALETTE

Predominantly juniper and black pepper which make way for softer, sweeter notes of toffee, candied lemon peel and fresh mango.

#3       THE FINISH

Silky hints of chocolate and orange sherbet.

If you’ve tried Malawi Gin, tell us what you thought on Twitter @the_gin_club.

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The Perfect Serve:

We tried it in a classic G&T with a mango garnish. The gin is so gentle it disappears a bit with tonic, so we also tried it as a Gin Rickey (soda and fresh lime) and this really worked well too.

 

Price:             ±£35, depending where you buy it from.

ABV:              43%

Our rating:     7/10

 

Where to Buy It in the UK:

Africanos World, £33

The Gin Festival Shop, £38

Amazon, £41.95

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Gin review

Gin Tasting: Gin Lane 1751 London Dry Royal Strength

This is altogether the most unique spirit we have tried in a long while. Do you love liquorice? Are you a savoury gin fan? Then you may enjoy Gin Lane 1751 London Dry Royal Strength.

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Having only been released in late spring this year, Gin Lane 1751 is still fairly new to the craft gin market. However, as a creation of 8th generation London Distiller Charles Maxwell, their credentials are strong (which is why we were really looking forward to trying this gin). Made with 8 botanicals in a traditional Victorian style, London Dry Royal Strength is one of 4 released this year by the brand and is the first we have tried. You can read a great interview with Charles Maxwell by the good folk at GinFoundry.com (who else?!) here.

Gin Lane 1751 Royal Strength G&T

The name and liquid profile is inspired by history. Back in the mid 1700’s, the government felt that ‘Mothers Ruin’ was indeed causing far too many problems on the streets and they created a campaign to try and encourage people to switch back to a more ‘gentile’ drink – beer. Gin was blamed for a lower birth rate and for more infant deaths than ever before. As part of the campaign, this famous print by William Hogarth was commissioned, titled ‘Gin Lane’.

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Hogarth claimed that this print was ‘calculated to reform some reigning Vices peculiar to the lower Class of People’. Not long after, The Gin Act of 1751 was introduced which ensured licensing of retail premises and finally reduced consumption. Hence our Victorian style gin here is delightfully named Gin Lane 1751.

So, onto the gin – it’s a London Dry Royal Strength – and let me tell you, it really does pack a punch on the palette at 47% ABV! But even more so in flavour profile. Read on to see our tasting below. Before we get to the profile though, it must also be said that this gin has a really refreshing price point – £22.99 for a 70cl bottle. They have a principle of bringing affordable craft gin to the market place which I really like.

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THE TASTING

Made in a traditional Victorian style, it is heavy on juniper and star anise. What hits you right away is the strong citrus, bitter juniper and heavy pepper, which quickly opens up into a real hit of liquorice and fennel. I’d be so bold as to suggest that this isn’t a beginner’s gin – with quite a complex palette and a very bold profile, this gin is for those looking for something very different. Not everyone at Gin Club got on with this expression, but I’m pleased that it’s a gin bold enough to inspire opinion.

#1:      ON THE NOSE

Plenty of juniper, rosemary, lemon and limes.

#2:      ON THE PALETTE

The citrus and juniper are still very much there and are quickly followed by a powerful hit of aniseed and cracked black pepper.

#3       THE FINISH

Coriander, a hint of lemongrass and even a tiny notion of bitter cacao.

If you’ve tried Gin Lane 1751, tell us what you thought on Twitter @the_gin_club.

The Perfect Serve

We tried it in a classic G&T with lemon, a Negroni, a dirty martini and then we also tried it again as a G&T with coriander and chilli. We felt this London Dry suited the savoury servings most and the simple garnish of chilli and coriander helped to compliment some of the natural punch in this gin.

Price:             £22.99

ABV:              47%

Our rating:     6/10

Where to Buy It

At TheDrinkShop.com (£22.99), here.

At MasterOfMalt.com (£22.99), here.

As Selfridges (£26.99), here.

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Garnishes, How To Guides

How To: Garnish Your Gin

Remember when we only used to drink G&T’s with lime?

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Coldplay were the hottest thing since sliced bread, beards were out and cucumber was reserved for tiny sandwiches at The Ritz. The only way to serve our favourite tipple was with a green wedge of fresh lime. OK, you’d have a slice of lemon, at a push…. Fast forward to 2015 and we are far more familiar with elaborate garnishes that range from exotic fruits to fresh herbs to bacon – so what’s happened? Hint: there’s method to the fabulousness. It’s not *just* for decoration…

If we look back into the history of the gin & tonic, some suggest that in fact lime was added to help fight scurvy in the mid-1800’s, however this cannot be verified. But it could be why we have since so faithfully remained wed to lime. (For a an in-depth look at this history of the G&T, this is a very good article)

Then, Hendrick’s Gin was introduced with wildly unusual rose and cucumber botanicals – arguably kick-starting the craft gin alternative botanical trend. And they did something unheard of…. They recommended we drink their gin with a slice of cucumber! This was revolutionary!

What most of us didn’t (and arguably some still don’t) realise is that this wasn’t just marketing fluff or an attempt to be different; the reason Hendrick’s is served with cucumber is because it enhances the botanical profile of the gin. Ah-ha!

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Garnish is to gin as food is to wine – some things just go better together. My top recommendation for garnish experimenters would be to visit Julia and the team at The London Gin Club – these guys really know their gin. Coppa glass, premium ice and intelligently selected garnishes will open your palette to a whole new world of wonderful. Indeed, I will never forget enjoying my first GinMare garnished with basil and cherry tomato – it blew my mind and really made me think I could be more selective with my garnish choices.

Photo courtesy of The London Gin Club website (thelondonginclub.com)

Photo courtesy of The London Gin Club website (thelondonginclub.com)

If you can’t get down to London, here are the basic principles of garnish pairing:

  1. Complimentary flavours – a garnish that is the same or similar to the predominant botanical and enhances the botanical note i.e. Hendrick’s Gin’s predominant botanical is cucumber, therefor serve with a slice of cucumber
  2. Contrasting flavours – a garnish that is the opposite to the predominant botanical that provides a unique take on the entire profile of the gin i.e. Sacred Cardamom is spicey, dry and peppery and served with a sweet slice of orange or ruby red grapefruit gives you a different perspective on the flavours

Additionally, our friends at The Craft Gin Club have been collating responses from distillers to create a definitive list of garnishes – a great place to start. Who knows better than the distillers themselves?

Finally, an important thing to say is let’s not get too puritanical here… garnish as you please and go for things you like. I can’t handle too much gin snobbery… let’s be aware, and then do as we like. Gin is much more about personal preference and enjoyment than rules. If you discover something that works really well, drop us a line on Twitter and tell us about it  @the_gin_club

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Gin review, Naked Tasting

Gin Tasting: Silent Pool Gin

Price:             ±£35

ABV:               43%

Profile:            Citrus, Kaffir Lime leaf, lavender, chamomile and fresh grass

Our rating:       9/10

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In the world of craft gins, you can easily become overwhelmed and bamboozled by obscure botanicals and quirky flavour profiles and exaggerated marketing… So much so that when you do come across a gin that is as well balanced, polite and altogether delightful as Silent Pool, you remember why you started drinking gin in the first place. Thank you, Master Distiller Cory Mason, for reminding us that, like a Gregory Peck or a Jaguar E-Type… sometimes the classics never go out of style. Indeed, Silent Pool have remade the classic profile of a quintessential gin but added a modern twist that is undeniably exquisite.

Having first discovered Silent Pool gin at The London Gin Festival back in February, we knew knew almost immediately that this would become a firm favourite at The Gin Club (not least of all because their distillery is not far from my house in Surrey!). We were then reminded of how superb it was whilst stopping in for refreshment on a long country walk at The Drummond, Albury (if you haven’t been you really must make a trip out to Surrey and enjoy the fine hospitality of the team and enjoy a Silent Pool by the babbling brook in the pub garden) and that was that, we knew we had to get several bottles in. A few weeks later we drove out to Ripley to meet Ian from Silent Pool distillery and acquire a few bottles for the next Gin Club meet. Needless to say, it was the most popular gin that night.

Silent Pool itself is a site of mystery, magic and legend based near Albury, Surrey. The Distillery takes spring water from Silent Pool in the making of the gin, hence the name. A place of extreme beauty and shrouded in mystery and magic, we’re pleased to report that the gin is just as interesting. Legend has it that a woodcutters daughter drowned in the bottomless pool and that her spirit can be seen rising from the waters at night. If you’ve ever been to silent pool, you’ll know how incredibly clear the water is and how many glorious rainbow colours you can see on the bottom created by various plant life. The Silent Pool gin bottle aims to reflect some of this magic and it certainly is a beautiful bottle that can be proudly displayed on your gin shelf.

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24 unique and unamed botanicals (the gin is as mysterious as it’s namesake) come together to deliver a very refreshing gin that unfolds gently on the palette. Our tasting notes in full below, however you will be rewarded with a crisp citrus and peppery profile to start that gives way to the deep sweetness of honey and that leaves a soothing wave of lavender and chamomile behind. We tried it neat and with Jack Rudy’s Tonic syrup and sparkling mineral water.

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An absolutely delightful gin – polite on the palette, refreshing with a confident citrus profile that is balanced beautifully with gentle notes of honey, lavender and rose.

#1:      ON THE NOSE

Lots of lovely juniper followed by bright lemon, kaffir lime, fresh cracked black pepper, coriander and sherbet.

#2:      ON THE PALETTE

Citrus quickly gives way to silky aniseed, sweet chamomile and lavender, a touch of rose.

#3       THE FINISH

Warm honey, fresh oranges and maybe even a hint of mint.

The Perfect Serve

We tried a simple orange slice garnish & a gooseberry – which complimented the citrus profile of the gin and then again with a slice of pear and sprig of lavender – which really sung.

Because Silent Pool has such a wonderfully balanced profile, a classic dirty martini, served extra cold, with lemon stuffed olives to compliment the citrus profile is just wonderful.

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Gin Joints

Drink here : Mr Fogg’s, Mayfair.

Located at number 15 Burton Lane, tucked into a non-descript side street in Mayfair; it was introduced to me as the kind of place one might find a gentleman that has travelled the world in curious circumstances. It is of course, Mr Foggs.

Even as you approach the large double frontage, with the exception of the uniformed doorman standing outside, there is little to tell you that you have in fact found your destination. Those of a less adventurous demeanour might be perturbed and walk on by, thinking it perhaps a private residence or an old Mayfair members club.

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Upon entering the establishment, you are ushered into what I can only imagine was the officers mess at some Victorian era colonial outpost – the walls are adorned with mounted animal heads, ordinary bicycles hanging from the ceiling, a large hot air balloon appears to have crash landed and entangled in the rafters. A large fireplace hosts several roaring logs, above which the head of a Kudo keeps watch over the proceedings. Uniformed waiters, dressed in the style of colonial mess stewards seat you and take your drinks orders.

The selection of Gin on hand was, as you would expect of such an establishment, both extensive and eclectic, with some rare 1970’s bottlings of Booth’s, Gilby’s, Beefeater’s, Pitman’s, and Plymouth Drys. I, of course, being a man who likes to get straight to the point when ordering drinks, looked no further than the first entry on the Gin list: Mr Fogg’s Butlers Gin and a Fevertree tonic. The drink was served in a traditional way, which I guess for me was partially lounging on a low chaise discussing with my colleagues various business engagements.

Mr. Fogg’s is famous for their ‘Tipsy Tea” and whilst I had not the time nor the inclination to order “an intriguing selection of Alcoholic Teas served alongside an exquisite array of elegant Sandwiches, Cakes, Pastries & Petit-Fours” at 17.37 on a Tuesday eve, I have no doubt that other members would find this offering most delightful.

As this was an unplanned late afternoon reconnaissance for a future Gin Club meeting, I have kept the details brief, but I can say that this is definitely a place that will certainly be revisited in an official capacity with the other members of Gin club in the coming weeks.

Mr Fogg's Butler's Gin and Fevertree Tonic

Mr Fogg’s Butler’s Gin and Fevertree Tonic

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